Two Thirst-Waters for Pennsic

With the success of my first two thirst-waters, I wanted to follow up on the rest of them from The Compendium of Essential Arts for Family Living.  I made the first one, which was really a short mead (and reused the spices and yeast to make a very nice plausibly-historical metheglin), but that leaves six thirst-waters to try: Malus asiatica, Chinese strawberry, Chinese quince, five-flavor [berry], grape, and fragrant sugar.

Chinese quinces are pretty hard to get, and the fragrant sugar one has some pretty unclear bits.  I can get grape juice, but getting Vitis vinifera, the European grape, is rough in the summer: American grapes make up most commercial grape juice, and they have a really distinctive flavor that wouldn't be appropriate for Chinese grapes, which would be vinifera.

When I was looking through Manhattan Chinatown grocery stores, I came across a bag of five flavor berries:

Meanwhile, I remembered that I had picked a quantity of young ornamental crabapples back in 2017 and had them frozen - I was originally going to use these in cider, but the opportunity here was pretty good.  They're not Malus asiatica, but they're probably not so far off: sour, tannic, and not heavily bred for flavor.


Five-Flavor Thirst-Water
Take in proportion one liang of the meat from northern five-flavor fruit [Schisandra chinensis].  Soak in water at a rolling boil and let steep [off the heat] overnight.  Take the juice and simmer it together, and add thick bean juice until it is the right color.   Add well-refined honey so that it’s sweet and sour. Boil over a slow fire for perhaps two hours.  Serve cool or warm.
Chinese Pear-Leaf Crabapple [Malus asiatica] Thirst-water
Take some quantity of newly-sprouted small Chinese pear-leaf crabapples and pound them to bits.  Put the pounded crabapples in a bamboo vessel and immerse them in water at a rolling boil. Mix, and drain when the dregs are flavorless.  Using a variable fire, boil and stir often, not allowing it to boil dry. When boiling, drip into water so that it is not dissipated. Then, add a little borneol [the chemical.  Possibly from a member of Dipterocarpaceae] and musk. Sandalwood powder is especially good.

These, like the other three fruit waters, are variations on a theme: extract juice from a fruit, boil it down, sweeten with honey.  Maybe add some other flavors.

These turned out to not be very difficult!  Process photos:

Five Flavor Berries

These berries are said to contain all five flavors in them: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and spicy.  They sort of do?  But they're mostly very sour.
Three cups of berries

Soaking in hot water

I wanted to get a little more juice out so I added more and strained them well.  I'd probably have gotten a similar effect by steeping in a bigger volume of water.

Top: first running.  Bottom: second running.  They're about the same.


Color test


Food processed.  A mortar would be more appropriate but I don't have a big one and also have self respect.



Pressing out the juice

The ice cream scoop shapes are kind of funny

I took a second runnings from this and used it in a mead.

Boiled down


A clever reader will note that I missed something: the "thick bean juice."  Indeed, the first time I made the five-flavor berry thirst-water, I left it out.  But this time, I was going to submit this to the Brewers' Guild, so I had better do it right!

"Bean juice" is probably soy milk.  "Juice" is any liquid derived from some mostly solid source, and it appears in soy milk contexts elsewhere in the Chinese text corpus.  It's not from fermented soybeans, thank goodness.  Soy milk is a common commodity and surely I can just use commercial soy...
Oh.  Oh no.  Even the most boring soy milk is full of stuff.

Well, it looks like we're making our own.  To add insult to injury, whole foods doesn't carry dry soybeans, apparently, so I'm using mung beans, which are also well attested as "green beans" (綠豆).

I couldn't find a recipe in a half an hour of searching through the ctext corpus, but I think that's because it's not complicated.  I wound up following the shape of this recipe:
1 cup of mung beans, soaked 8 hours and washed

Into the food processor with some water.  A blender would have been better.


This stuff turned into a weird, thick foam basically instantly.
Smells disturbingly like KFC gravy.

Like, this is almost pudding when cool
So this is why the commercial stuff has emulsifiers
I added a bit of the thick sauce - maybe a quarter cup - to the boiling juice, and it didn't really change the color so I'm not sure what to do about "until it is the right color."  It did add opacity, and some mouthfeel.  Adding a LOT of it to a test amount of syrup didn't change the color either so I'm not sure what's going on.

I then added honey until the syrup tasted both sweet and sour when diluted, as instructed, and wound up boiling my 4 cups of juice down to a cup and a half, including the maybe half a cup of honey that went into it.  I don't want to boil further for fear of scorching it.

I'm packaging these in little flip-top bottles that hold three ounces each, and pasteurizing them for good measure.

Diluted in water, these are very pleasant!  I haven't tried with the musk and borneol yet, but I'll be sure to write home from Pennsic.

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  1. Looking forward to trying these. It's amusing seeing some of Grandma's kitchen stuff on the internet.


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